Russia halts Latvian dairy shipment at border

By bne IntelliNews January 21, 2014

bne -

Russia has banned a shipment of dairy products coming over the border of the Kaliningrad enclave, sparking fears of a continued political campaign in the Baltic region by Moscow using trade as a weapon.

More than 700 kilograms of dairy products have been sent back to Latvia due to a discrepancy in accompanying documents, the Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance, or Rosselkhoznadzor, was quoted by The Baltic Times as saying. Earlier this month Russia also prevented the import of 24,000 cans of Latvian sprats. The most recent episode will only extend concern in the EU that the move is politically motivated.

The shipment was sent from Riga, but the name of the company has not been mentioned. Rosselkhoznadzor has established that the truck's license plate does not match the one mentioned in the cargo's veterinary certificate, hence the shipment was sent back to Latvia.

Last year, as Lithuania prepared to host an EU summit at which several former Soviet states were due to sign free trade pacts with Brussels, Russia launched what the Lithuanian PM complained was a trade war against the Baltic country.

Lithuania's vital transport sector was hit as Russian customs followed tightened checks on trucks from the country. Not long after, Lithuanian dairy products were banned from entering Russia. Russia's Federal Consumer Rights Protection and Human Health Control Service, Rospotrebnadzor said hygiene certification was not sufficient.

The first of those bans, against Lithuanian company Rokiskio Suris, was lifted on January 20. Rospotrebnadzor said the restrictions will be lifted gradually, and each exporter will need to provide full information regarding their actions to meet Russian regulation.

At the same time, the states that were due to sign the pacts also found themselves at the sharp end of Russian consumer concerns. Moldovan wine was banned from Russian shelves, while Ukrainian chocolate and steel was barred. However, Riga does not currently appear to have any direct arguments with Moscow, although the large Russian minority in Latvia is always bubbling away in the background.

At the same time, on January 1 Latvia became the latest state to join the Eurozone. It argued that Russia's recent pressure on Ukraine, which helped convince Kyiv to not sign an EU pact but instead sign a series of deals with itself instead - showed the benefits of its being bound to Europe.

"Russia isn't going to change," Finance Minister Andris Vilks said on the eve of the move. "We know our neighbour. There was before, and there will be, a lot of unpredictable conditions. It is very important for the countries to stick together, and with the EU."

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